According to those who keep track of these things, the top-selling compact SUV in Canada is the Ford Escape, followed closely by Honda’s CR-V. Way down on the list is the Volkswagen Tiguan, despite possessing one of the more powerful drivetrains in this highly competitive market.
How competitive is this market? Right now, there are around 80 different SUVs and crossovers offered in Canada. This is counting full-size and intermediates, yes, but the compact SUV market is the hottest of all. People want the practicality of a sport utility vehicle without the burden of lousy fuel economy.
On this last point, the Tiguan falls a little short, with a purported fuel economy of 11.5 litres per 100 kilometres in town and 9.3 on the highway. Yes, this is better than the likes of, oh, the Ford Explorer or VW’s Touareg, but inferior to that of the Honda CR-V or Hyundai Tucson. Plus, this one needs premium fuel.
On the other hand, its turbocharged 2.0 litre four cylinder bangs out an impressive 200 horsepower and 207 foot-pounds of torque, which lets it run away from most – but not all – of its competitors. Transmission is a Tiptronic six-speed automatic, and the Tiguan can be had with either front-drive or VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive. My Comfortline tester had the former, and there are three versions to choose from. Towing capacity, by the way, is almost 1000 kilograms; suitable for things like jetskis and/or a small trailer.
It’s a nimble little tusker; ready-made for city use, with all kinds of snap and easy maneuverability. VW has pretty much mastered the art of turbocharging, and it’s nice to see that VW has eschewed the CVT transmission in this application; power comes on in a straightforward and predictable fashion and there is no lurching or sudden onslaught of oomph.
On the other hand, this is one of the rougher-riding compact SUVS out there; every bump and dimple in the road seems to be magnified and it actually gets kind of annoying after awhile. No surprise there; after all, the Tiguan is built on the same basic platform as the Golf. Again, the CR-V has a much smoother and refined ride and you don’t get knocked about as much. That said, the Tiguan will out-handle the CR-V, and, with the 4Motion version, probably offers a better off-road driving experience.
No complaints in the amenities department. VW has always done a nice job of its interiors, and the Tiguan Comfortline comes with heated front seats (three settings), “privacy” glass, rear view back-up camera, dual zone climate control, and a massive power sunroof. This latter feature takes up virtually the entire roof and has several settings. Fully opened, it almost transforms this car into a convertible. The rear hatch is an upwardly-opening affair, and it too is massive….lots of easy access here.
A word about the headlights. VW calls this their “adaptive front-light system”, and, in a nutshell, it allows the headlights to pivot up to 13 degrees when you make a turn. You can actually see the lights move, and I found myself driving around at night just to check out the headlight action. Especially relevant in this foggy weather.
Space-wise, with the second-row seats folded flat, the Tiguan offers some 56 cubic feet of storage capacity, and, with the 60/40 folding seats, will accommodate any kind of modest cargo…a small sofa, stepladder, skis, etc. Don’t think of this as a dedicated cargo carrier, but more of a sporty SUV that can handle bits and pieces. By way of comparison, a CR-V has over 70 cubic feet. Other interior features include push –button start (a waste of time and engineering), an electronic parking brake, and, with my tester, a “Technology” package, which includes a navi system, touchscreen controls, and a Fender audio system. Altogether, these add $2075 to the car’s sticker price, and the “appearance” package, which is basically just larger 18-inch wheels and tires and glitzy roof rails, adds another$1750.
Pricing. In this trim level, the Tiguan is just under $35,000 before extras. By way of comparison, the Trendline version of ten grand less, and, although it lacks goodies such as the automatic transmission (it comes with a six-speed manual), heated seats, fancy stereo, and dual-zone climate control, still offers the same driving experience. You could even argue, that with its manual gearbox, it’s more interesting to drive. Not to mention offering slightly superior fuel economy on the highway. Interestingly, the automatic is thriftier around town.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 207 ft. lb. @1700 rpm – 5000 rpm
Base Price: $34,700; as tested $38,525
Fuel Economy: 11.5 litres per 100 kilometres (city); 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres (hwy). Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, Kia Sorento, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5.